A delegation, which claimed to be authorised by United States President Barack Obama, last week visited the Aligarh Muslim University campus and met some student activists to “know concerns of Muslim youth about the current Narendra Modi government”, and to “know Muslim youths’ views about terror outfits, especially the ISIS”.
The delegates who went to Aligarh on a “fact finding” mission were Shaarik H. Zafar, Omar and an Indian official from the US embassy in New Delhi, Dinesh Dube. These delegates are regarded as part of Obama’s team, “which is responsible for collecting the views of Muslims, especially in the Middle East and in South Asia, about their governments”, according to activists and officials.
Dr. Saleem Mohammad Khan, one of the activists who met these delegates, says that they posed questions such as “whether Muslims face discrimination and threats under the Modi regime” and “how do Muslims, especially the youth like AMU students, feel about their possible radicalisation by extremist groups like ISIS”.
Some of the AMU interlocutors told this newspaper that they told the delegates that “since the inception of the current Narendra Modi government, Muslims seem to have been continuously targeted”. They cited some recent incidents like Dadri, beef ban, etc., to prove their point. On radicalisation, the interlocutors “told the US team categorically that students at AMU campus are dead against ISIS” and that “discussions on all platforms seem to build up opinion against such terror outfits”. They also told them that “since the AMU campus is a melting pot of Indian Muslims, an overwhelming condemnation of groups like ISIS may also reflect the opinion of Indian Muslims in general,” said Saleem.
Saleem said that the delegates also asked the students to join cultural exchange programmes conducted by the US embassy.
One of the delegates, Shaarik Zafar has a personal connection with AMU. His forefathers, who belonged to Meerut, were the alumni of AMU. During partition they went to Pakistan and later settled in the US.
In the US, Zafar is the deputy chief of the Homeland, Cyber, and Countering Violent Extremism Group in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, National Counterterrorism Centre. He is also associated with the Washington Institute, a think tank dedicated to improve the US’ Middle East policy.
Members of the delegation could not be contacted to know the details of the interaction from them.